5 Ways To Combat Overthinking
Life is too short to stress over the little things.
What is overthinking? Well, the technical word for this incredibly annoying thing is rumination. According to the American Psychological Association, the term rumination is defined by “obsessional thinking involving excessive, repetitive thoughts or themes that interfere with other forms of mental activity.” Ring a bell, anyone?
What exactly do we overthink?
The sad thing about all of this is that usually we’re not overthinking the good things that are happening in our life. The stuff we get bothered by are things outside of our comfort zone and control. We’ll either stress events or moments that haven’t happened yet or have happened already.
As we all know by now, it is human nature to be scared of things that we cannot control. As such, the next mode of action is to overthink to the point of no return in order to claw back some sense of comfort and security.
Before you know it, you’ve become so engrossed with overthinking that it becomes difficult to focus on the important things happening right now. Everyday tasks, small joys of life, and simple conversations, are all hard to keep track of because we’re too busy ruminating.
If all of this seems very familiar to you, no fear, a lot of us can relate. The following are 5 ways in which you can start combatting overthinking today in order to start living tomorrow.
1. Take a break
Whatever you’re doing in that moment in time - stop! Take a step back, close your eyes, and pace your breathing. Take notice of its rhythm: Is it fast? Is it shallow? Relax the muscles in your body. Focus on the areas we tend to hold a lot of tension in, such as the shoulders, stomach and face, as per the instructions of licensed therapist Kimberly Wilson.
In this state of pure disconnection, your mind will bring forth thoughts and feelings that are troubling you. Try to view them objectively and continue pacing your breathing. Tell yourself that these thoughts are nothing more than condensation in the air and visualize them leaving you. Once you feel comfortable in your peace, open your eyes and continue with whatever you were in the middle of doing.
2. Make use of positive affirmations
There’s a reason why people say positive affirmations work. Reminding yourself of encouraging mantras and repeating them back to yourself when you find that you’re starting to overthink is a great place to start. Whatever it is that you’re worried about, tell yourself something positive about it.
For example, I’m worried about my end of term exam. In that moment, focus on the fact that maybe you’ve been studying really hard this year, or that you’re doing the very best you can. Perhaps you’ve made lots of progress in your current academic year compared to the last.
These positive affirmations will overshadow the actual exam itself and before you know it, you’re back to your usual composed self.
Plenty of studies - including this one published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience - suggest that careful meditation can help ease the potency and frequency of rumination.
Apps like Headspace and Calm are popular not for without good reason. They offer many specific guides to help you get through whatever it is that you’re dealing with. Taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to meditate could teach you valuable lessons on how to calm yourself in moments of anxiety and overthinking.
4. Take a break from social media
Let’s be honest, there are tons of triggers on social media. You’re scrolling through your Instagram or tweets on your timeline when suddenly you see or read something that sets your mind ablaze. You find yourself going from zero to 100 quicker than Usain Bolt in a sprint.
Instead of doing that, why not take a break from ALL your social platforms at least once a week (and build from there where necessary). If that’s too much of a crazy idea, then maybe a couple of hours a day could do the trick.
In either case, your brain will get some relief from the online world and you’re likely to start enjoying and focusing on the real world instead.
Nobody expects you to become a gym junkie overnight but some light exercise a day can force you to get out of your head. By focusing on your body instead, you allow your mind to detox and enjoy all the delightful endorphins that exercise is known to release.
You’ll find that at the end of your session, you’re a lot happier than before you started, and you can continue to build on that productivity throughout the day with a more positive attitude.